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Raleigh’s Most Inspiring Stories

The heart of our mission is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our communities. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some incredible artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with the incredible group below. Check out our favorite stories from across the Voyage family.

Caitlin Dobbins

I started as an intern in college writing wedding-related features for a wedding magazine. I immediately knew I was interested in the design section of the industry and fell in love. From there I worked with a dynamic team of women at a catering company who were heavily involved in the planning side of celebrations, too. They were passionate and my love for this industry continued to grow as I watched them serve their clients. I ended up managing a few event venues and that’s when I decided to start planning full-time. Read more>>

Zoysia Gray

My love for makeup started in 2013. I was watching Jackie Aina on YouTube, and I thought to myself, I can do that!! After watching a few more well-known YouTubers, I decided to buy the basic necessities and I got started. I used to practice day in and day out on different makeup looks, remove it when I didn’t like it, and start again lol I would do this over and over again, until one day I just got better. It was definitely the growth for me. By 2016, I felt confident in my skills to start accepting clients.  Read more>>

Heather Hartley and Phil Reynolds

Trillium Arts is a non-profit artist residency center located in a rural community in Madison County, NC that was co-founded by me and my husband, Phil Reynolds. Our Vision: Trillium Arts enhances Western North Carolina’s thriving, vibrant creative arts ecology and offers residency and Fellowship opportunities for regional, national and international artists working in a variety of disciplines. At Trillium, artists find time and space to create their best new work and connect that work to local communities. Read more>>

Chelsea Manzo

My first design job after college was for The Villages Daily Sun in The Villages, Florida. It’s a retirement community with a large daily newspaper. I got to really stretch my wings and create fun newspaper pages while I worked there. After about four years I wanted a more normal 9-5 schedule which is not typical in journalism, so I left and took a job as a graphic designer in the ed tech industry. My role has changed a time or two since joining Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but currently, I design mostly for a large social community of teachers and enjoy it a lot. Teachers are amazing clients to design for. Read more>>

Makenzie Edwards

My story really starts in 2017. I was 19 and pregnant. At the time I was working at a daycare part time & I was a waitress at a local restaurant in High Point, NC. I knew I wanted something more but I wasn’t sure what it was. After my son was born, I was really into beauty and makeup. My mom suggested I enroll in esthetics school. I graduated from esthetics school in 2018. I quickly fell in love with medical aesthetics. I worked at a local medspa for a while to get experience then quickly joined a dermatology practice. Read more>>

LaQuaanida Simmons

I always had a creative mind since childhood. Growing up I can recall always watching my mom sewing for other people or making something for my siblings and me. While in high school I took a sewing class and would say one day I am going to have my own clothing business. In 2008 I started working for the retailer Belk which is where my experience in retail and sales started. As years passed, different ideas started coming to me about making cool clothes for Christians. So I continue life working and going on to passing my N.C States board and becoming a licensed cosmetologist in 2015, but that still wasn’t enough. Read more>>

Dawn Sugg

I am a retired 25-year Health Care Administrator that needed a new change of pace. Five years ago I started a catering company called The House of Odell and Luella that grew into a food trailer. During my last five years, I saw a need for beverage services at weddings, corporate events, or other events and loved the idea of a Mobile Dry Bar. I call her Wink & Nod. She can operate as a bar, or coffee bar or can be used at children’s events. There are so many possibilities that Wink & Nod can be used. It has become hugely popular. Read more>>

Philip Carter

Philip Carter is the owner of NerdsToGo IT Services for Business and Home. Philip grew up in Breckenridge, Texas earning money in high school as a welder/fabricator in his father’s oilfield welding shop/supply. He spent his teen years in that shop rebuilding and painting his friend’s bicycles, go-karts, motorcycles & cars. He’s remained quite comfortable with the mechanical world while learning the digital world, traveling globally, and building a successful career selling advanced technology solutions to customers. Read more>>

Albennie Robinson

My story begins around 12 years ago when I and my wife received the heartbreaking news my daughter was diagnosed with severe autism! I had to leave school, jobs, etc. in order to take care of her becoming a stay-at-home dad. She had to take years of continuous different forms of therapy which I learned from and continued when the therapist left. It was my goal as a father and also as a man that experienced childhood trauma and abandonment that I wouldn’t allow my child no matter what experience the same thing. Read more>>

El Lambert

I was born in Washington, D.C., but was raised in Martinsburg West Virginia. My father is a Pastor, Singer, Musician, and Educator, and my Mother is an Administrative Supervisor for the Federal Government. My parents helped shape who I am in many ways! Watching my Dad sing and preach for large crowds of people gave me the confidence and guidance to take music and performance seriously, while my Mom commuted every day (over 2 hours each way) from West Virginia to DC to go to work. Read more>>

Aaron Adams

I’ve always had a passion for modeling, fashion, taking pictures, and creating content on social media. The way social media has expanded over the years makes it exciting to advocate, promote, and express yourself how you see fit. I’m able to be my own creative director, present myself to the world, connect with brands, showcase outfits, pose for cameras, create videos, and link my favorite music, all while branding myself. Read more>>

Irma Marrero

Petit Green Giants™ evolved out of a love of gardening, nutritious living foods, and tinkering. My husband and I experienced significant health renewal and illness reversal after drinking green smoothies daily. My gardening endeavors slowly expanded from strictly flowers to growing our own food and more specifically, microgreens for our family. As seed catalogs flooded our home every winter, I became curious and excited about the many different varieties available for every green, flower, and herb. No more boring spinach or one type of beet. I began to share with friends and family my excitement and the benefits of greens, living foods, smoothies, health, and natural “medicine”. Read more>>

Heather Bunker

It’s so hard to share my story in a short way but I will try my best. Creativity is all around us. God literally crafted this world and everything in it, to work perfectly. Every one of us is created in his image—to be creators. Sadly this creative tendency in all of us is either stoked or smothered. I grew up super poor in a broken family to one very creative mom and one creative (but unwilling to say that) Dad. My dad pushed me to pursue anything but the creative field and told me my entire life that creatives are not successful and to avoid them at all costs. Read more>>

Dilan Charles

I was born on March 5, 2002, in Brooklyn, New York to Jamaican parents who are at this time separated. I was raised in the Canarsie area with my big brother and sister for some part of my life until I got to around middle school. At the age of 8, I had dreams of being in the NFL until those dreams were crushed by all of the schools that I was looking at, not having any football teams. There was also a time when I was just 8 years old, almost losing my life from being trapped on a school bus at night heading home after school. I saw a car pull up right next to the school bus that I was in. Read more>>

Sheriden Lovell

As a young kid, I wanted to always be an entrepreneur and own my own business for the longest time I always thought that would be a bakery as I have a baking and pastry degree from a school in Chicago. I continued to be in the culinary industry by working in restaurants and retail grocery stores and high-end hotels even as early as 18. When I found out I was pregnant at 21 life changed a lot as one could expect. Soon after I found out I moved to Siler city and I was living with my family at the time till I and his father figured out what we were going to do.  Read more>>

Ryan Jones

I love going to different countries, learning about different cultures, trying local cuisine, etc. I even enjoy sitting at a restaurant or bar near the gate with a glass of wine waiting for the flight. My love for travel has led me to become an Independent Travel Agent, helping my customers enjoy traveling the way I do. Food blogging has led me to meet some wonderful people in Charlotte. One of the biggest and proud moments was working to create @EatBLKCLT to bring awareness to black-owned businesses in the Charlotte area. Read more>>

Kyle Kelly

I started playing drums at the age of 8 after watching the movie Drumline. Shortly after at the age of 12, I started teaching myself guitar, but in between all of that my first love was sports. I played throughout my childhood and always kind of kept music on the back burner but never fully “dove into it” I wound up going to college for baseball and after a career-ending injury I really started to put my heart and soul into music, almost obsessively. I played my first live show in college and that’s when it really hit me and I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I started carving out a plan of how I was going to do it. Read more>>

Christopher Smith

Born and raised in the Hickory area of NC, I followed my grandfather around and found a passion for woodworking. So much so that I took it in school every year from middle school on. After high school, I worked for a local cabinet shop and later started my own custom cabinet and furniture business. In 2011 I sold all of my woodworking machinery (and most of my other belongings) so, my wife and three daughters could serve in a local ministry helping teenage girls. While serving there, my wife became ill with a variety of health issues. After near death, and her health not improving, we had to step away and start life again from scratch. Read more>>

Shyne Ink

I was born and raised in Chicago and always wanted to get into tattooing. I reached out to numerous seasoned artists for an apprenticeship and was never offered the opportunity. So I began teaching myself. I traveled and lived in some great places, such as Dallas, TX that really helped to launch my career. Once I mastered certain methods in tattooing, I moved on to scar coverups and that skill set brought me to Charlotte, NC. Read more>>

Andrew Wisdom

I landed in Raleigh at 5 years old via Memphis and New Jersey. I went to Penny Road Elementary in Cary until 4th grade, when my father got a job in Hong Kong. We were there for 2 years and then we came back to Raleigh. I went to East Cary Middle School and then Athens Drive High School. I have been in Raleigh ever since. I’ve been doing trade work since shortly after college from underground fiber optic work to home renovations. 9 years ago, I started working for a national garage door company out of Dallas. I also contracted with companies that did commercial doors and gates and new construction for Pulte. This has given me quite a broad knowledge of the industry. In 2020 I formed Wise Choice Garage Door, and have been committed full-time since July. Read more>>

Faith Villegas

So I’ve always had a passion for event planning. For as far back as I can remember I was always coming up with crazy themes for my birthday parties, whether it was a character-themed party from my favorite TV show or a carnival theme party with games and themed food. As a kid, I would also build Pinterest boards for my dream wedding. And as I got older, nothing really changed. I still build parties and Wedding boards on Pinterest, I still throw big elaborate parties. Read more>>

Jordan Sokel

Pressing Strings has been releasing music for over a decade as well as touring the northeast and beyond. We have played thousands of shows from backyards to small clubs to opening for bands like Gov’t Mule, JJ Grey, Toad the Wet Sprocket, etc, and Festivals like Firefly, Sweetwater 420 Fest, Floydfest, etc. The band’s music is a mix of folk, blues, soul, rock, and reggae. Read more>>

Paul Bomar

I first became interested in the guitar at age 13, when I saw my cousin had so much fun playing his. Then at 16, I heard a Miles Davis album and that turned my mind upside down. For years after that, I began to listen to and absorb as much jazz as I could, and in my 30s began to attempt to actually play it. The rest is history. Life is never really a smooth road, is it? Financial, marital, and professional stresses have reared their heads as they do with many people, and there were even two battles with cancer. Read more>>

Eric Johnson

During my time as a Marine Corps Officer, I realized that countless number of my Marines had terrible financial habits. Their irresponsible financial decisions were rooted in a lack of trustworthy guidance, education, accountability, and maturity. This prompted me to really think about what I could do to expand my knowledge of personal finances in order to help my Marines as well as other young professionals that desired to obtain financial freedom. After obtaining my Dave Ramsey Financial Coaching Certification, I created In The Smoker Lifestyle, LLC. Read more>>

Pamela Bynum

In 2020 my great Aunt turned 100 years old, she said to me “in all my living, I’ve never seen anything like it,” and today we all have one thing in common with her, we lived through a national shutdown in the wake of a global pandemic. Since then it has come in waves and caused many of us to pivot and shift. The good news is we survived and now it’s time for us to Thrive! Hello, my name is Pamela Bynum and I am a Digital Solutions Developer and Technology Consultant for mytCreative – “Where our Team becomes Your Team.” In short, I’m your problem solver. Read more>>

Traci Falcon

I began Falcon Focus on a personal mission of expression. I am a Special Effects Artist who specializes in Latex and prosthetic adhesives as well as animatronic building. I wanted to use my creativity to show others what I as well as themselves were capable of. When I began I was viewed as “Too Young” as well as I am a Minority. I was told I was in a “Male-dominated Industry” which I only saw as more of an ambitious fire to prove what I was capable of and express how I viewed things from my artistic perspective. Read more>>

Keith and Carolyn Worth

My husband and I knew once the Pandemic had started we needed to get creative to gain control of our income. Everything was shut down and only essential workers were allowed to work. I and my husband at the time were blessed to still be able to keep our jobs me teaching preschool and him at the time working for a vinyl siding company as their lead carpenter. Finances were tight due to quarantine and covid restrictions we knew in the spring of 2021 we needed our own business. My husband has always been quite the handyman I told him why don’t you go off and work for yourself doing home renovations he took that boost of confidence and ran with it. Read more>>

Claudio Ceccarelli

I moved to the US at the age of 23 from Rome Italy, where I was born and raised. I first lived in New York City for a few years, until I decided that I needed to get away from the big city. I found Raleigh NC to be exactly what I was looking for, a nice place where I could cultivate my two passions: cars and food. I come from a restaurant background. When I was young my parents owned a restaurant/bar in Rome, so I grew up in the food industry. Read more>>

Bongo John

Music has always been a focal point throughout my life since my formative years. At the age of seven, I saw Buddy Rich perform drums with his big band and, after the show, met Buddy. I told him I wanted to be a drummer and he replied, “Stick with it, kid!”. With his autograph in hand, my path in pursuing drumming became my destiny. I soon began taking snare drum lessons to learn essential drum rudiments from percussion ensemble students at the University of Oklahoma. I was 1st chair on the snare drum in the band from middle school into high school.  Read more>>

Tony Cross

I used to run a restaurant in Southern Pines for six years that included a cocktail program that I started the last 2 years there. I was very interested in starting a draught cocktail program at the restaurant, but at the time, we didn’t have the logistics to make it work. When I branched out on my own, I wanted to provide cocktails for the public but didn’t want to start a traditional catering company. I always envisioned bottling small bottles of carbonated cocktails and delivering them.  Read more>>

Danielle Giles

I was originally born in Washington D.C., but at the age of 5, my parents decided to relocate to Lexington N.C. I attended Central Davidson High School where I was a part of many organizations including cotillion, marching band, and Lexington Youth Theatre; all of which I can say contributed greatly to my desire to connect with all types of people from different backgrounds. During my Junior year, I was able to take part in a student ambassador program and was able to travel abroad to many European countries such as Germany, France, and Switzerland and those places truly began the start of my many planned and unforeseen adventures! Read more>>

Mazey Eddings

Growing up, characters in books were always my closest friends. I moved around a lot as a teen and having both ADHD and ASD made social interactions and friendship forming daunting at best. But I’ve lived a thousand lives through stories. Gone on countless adventures. Learned so much about human nature from the pages of a book. Because of my deeply personal relationship with books, I put authors on a pedestal. The writing was this terrifying, elusive, idea that I wanted to do so badly, but was too afraid to dive head first into it. Read more>>

Derrick Bryant

Raleigh-based photographer that is madly in love with photography. Secondly, I’m a father, husband, and lover of life. I’m truly blessed to have such a wonderful family that supported and encouraged me to further pursue my passion and to start my photography business. I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer. My journey started in 2010. Prior to shooting professionally, I was a hobbyist shooting in my spare time. I’m extremely proud to have my son, Kylen to work along beside me. Read more>>

Anna Johnson

I was born in Durham but grew up in Apex. Before I was born, my uncle was shot and killed trying to stop an armed shooter in San Fransico. I share his middle name, Greenleaf. Because of this, I grew up very passionate about fighting gun violence. I am a product of Wake County Public School Systems. I am a result of the Lockdown Drill Generation. I went to UNC Charlotte to study special education. In 2019, there was a mass shooting on my college campus. I had taken a course in the room it occurred a semester prior. I had interacted with the gunman weeks before. After this, I joined the UNCC chapter of MFOL my senior year. I would then join Change The Ref as a social media team member. I have been doing work with Change The Ref for almost three years. Read more>>

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